14 December 2011

Talking Trash About DC's Green Police


Two years ago, Audio made a splash with its advertisement during the Super Bowl “The Green Police” which spoof’s Cheap Trick’s 1979 hit song “Dream Police” by fusing it lyrics and images of  overzealous Eco-Cops.




After the defeat of “Cap and Trade” legislation in the United States Senate and the revelations about scientists skewing global warming data in Climate-gate, the public could chuckle at this green cacotopia while considering the virtues of clean diesel cars.

Unfortunately, Audi did not prepare a parody but a prognostication. In the District of Columbia, a Dupont Circle resident is being barraged with fines from DC’s Department of Public Works for not recycling. It seems that Patricia White shreds her junk mail and newspapers to use as cat litter. In fact, she is being quite green since colored print matter is considered not recyclable.



But much like the “Green Police” Audi ad, the DPW inspector admitted to digging through her trash cans to fine these violations. The city and the courts have enforced fines totalling $2,000.  Perhaps she should put these soiled papers into recycling and let the city sort it out.

At home I am nicknamed a “Recycling Nazi” for trying to get all the cans and bottles into the recycling bins. But I recognize the relative futility of the exercise. Washington mandates that all offices in the city have recycling bins for paper.  I have worked late at many offices and seen these blue bins dumped into the rest of the “basura” (trash), even though they are clearly labeled-even in Spanish.   I have also been to the city dump where I have seen the recycling trucks deposit their collections with the rest of the refuse.

The DC government used the plastic bag ban as a tool to expand its power and financial base while clothing it in environmentalism.  The 5-cent a disposable plastic bag fee was supposed to stem the tide of trash in the Anacostia River.  But Mayor Adrian Fenty quickly diverted the proceeds from these mandatory fees assessed by business on consumers to non-environmental concerns.  After the first year of operation, the DC government realized the program for people bringing their own bags had been so successful that the DC Council looked to impose other taxes to supplement this shortfall. This was not a job for Captain Planet.

Improvements in the city are stifled by the city government concocting suspect environmental excuses to slow progress.  Philanthropists are seeking to convert an abandoned school into housing for homeless veterans. The charity was able to raise enough funds but their efforts are waylaid by city officials citing sustainable growth citing that there would not be enough parking spaces for these homeless vets.

These episode about municipal obsession about recycling illustrates several points.  The DPW inspector seems like an obsessive go-getter who is vying for promotion.  Allowing governments to expand by raising taxes funds such nonsense. In the end, seeing how recycling is more honored in the breach than the observance makes the recycling law more like feel good nanny-state law.  

No wonder this place earns the nickname “The District of Calamity”

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